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Hidden identities and the meaning of life

December 1, 2023

Courtesy of Ellie Sasksena '26

In my last edition of Burning Bowdoin Questions, I will answer every (and I mean every) remaining question that was asked of me. While I may not be able to provide the same level of detail for each question as in past issues, in celebration of curiosity, I can’t bring myself to leave any unanswered.

What happened to the Bowdoin hello?

It seems that some members of the community attribute the death of the so-called Bowdoin Hello to technology. A 2007 op-ed published in the Orient written by a former Health Center employee, Leslie Hill, highlights one of the first instances in our record of the Bowdoin Hello’s noticeable absence and blames iPods for its decline.

In 2017, a student wrote an op-ed about the waning Bowdoin Hello advocating for its revival. She urged that our time at the College is short, and we should savor the community we have. Last year, a Talk of the Quad addressed the fleeting tradition, talking to some current students who are main proponents of this campus convention. As an avid quad-waver myself, I would be keen to see the tradition make a return.

When was the Orient House bought by the school? 

Located at 12 Cleaveland Street, behind the Security Office, this house currently remains relatively unoccupied until Thursday nights when it lights up with activity for production night. Prompted by this question, Nikki Harris ’26 found that this building has been a Brunswick staple since 1825, when the land was first acquired for $350 by Washington Bowker for his son John Bowker.

Since then, the land has been passed to other Brunswickians like Captain Henry Merritt in 1879 for $1,200 and then his daughter Ella Brown in 1882, who likely had the residence until the early 1900s when it was acquired by the College. Technically, the building has ten rooms—though if you have ventured inside, you may understand my skepticism.

Who is eating the Jello in the dining hall? What is the most popular jello flavor?

Me. I am the one eating the Jello in the dining hall. In all honesty, I don’t know. I saw a comment card for more Jello the other day. The most prominent flavor I see is orange, but I am open to discourse on this point. Overall, I am a Jello supporter.

Now, onto some more personal questions…

Why does Eli Franklin ’25 own a landscaping company?

Now, this one is random. A flora fanatic wanted to know the reasoning behind Franklin’s landscaping company in Indiana. Franklin and his two brothers grew up mowing lawns for their neighbors, and when he was a junior in high school, the Franklins decided to make it an official business.

Since growing the business, Franklin has made it his goal to implement more sustainable landscaping practices, including using only electric maintenance vehicles and composting organic materials. Their business is the third carbon-neutral business in Indiana, according to Carbon Neutral Indiana.

What was Emma Barker ’25 doing for fall break her first year?

The mystery that has plagued all who know her. It was a doozy to figure out, but we got it. Barker was on campus for most of fall break in 2021. She climbed Tumbledown Mountain with a friend from Colby College on October 10 and ran the Scarborough Rail Trail the morning of October 11.

However, according to her cross country teammates, she left in a rush to get back to campus, making the real question, what happened between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m on October 11? After scouring old texts from her grandparents and Strava data, we found that she met up with her uncle and his family to give them a tour of Bowdoin. Another sentimental case solved.

Why won’t Marc Rosenthal ’25 shave half of his beard?

“A lot of the time, I touch my own beard, maybe when I’m thinking or when I’m walking around—maybe in a self-effacing way (no pun intended). I fear if half of my face was shaved, it might ruin the effect. However, because this is something I’ve never done before, it could also create a more interesting tactile experience. So I would be open to the idea, actually,” Rosenthal said contemplatively.

How can I be as cool as the people on the water polo team?

You can’t unless you join the water polo team. Women’s season is next semester. I never stop recruiting.

Who is Sarah Brown?

Conveniently, I had already looked into this before I got the question. For those unaware, Sarah Brown has been a persistent character on YikYak this semester, with the stated goal of having the highest Yakarma, the point system that counts how many upvotes YikYak posts get, in the school for the fall. Shihab Moral ’26 and I met with Sarah Brown, who is actually *drum roll* Ellie Saksena ’26.

Saksena decided to get into YikYak this year after getting Covid-19, prompting her to post consistently for a week. Since coming into YikYak fame, she gets around 500 Yakarma a day. From puddles to hot takes, she posts about pretty much anything. While she has achieved the top Yakarma score for this semester, she has a long way to go to beat the all-time leader at 26,000 Yakarma, but she is determined to do it in her Bowdoin tenure.

“I probably will [reach the top] in my Bowdoin career, but not intentionally. I’m just going to keep Yakking,” Saksena said.

While this isn’t an advice column, some people wanted some, so for the people, I must.

Why did she leave me?

I don’t know. Maybe you are the worst. Anonymity is no help in providing you with a meaningful response. However, what I can tell you is that life is a series of relationships—romantic and platonic alike—that shape who you are as a person. These relationships rarely last forever, but they do impact you forever. Reflect and take the positive things you can and learn from the negative—you will be a better person for it.

What is the meaning of life?

In short, who knows? Do I care? Often, this existential spiral leads me into a state of indifference that I find scary. But honestly, simplifying the answer is the only way to make it palatable for myself. As with the last question, I think that we establish our purpose through connections and knowledge. It is our responsibility to pass down information to the generations after us to make the world we live in better, and just by asking this question and being curious, you are on your way there.

Some honorable, unanswerable mentions…

Has sex been had in every building on campus? Which are the most and least popular? 

I have no clue how someone expected me to find these out, but I am curious myself. Someone must have a log out there, right? Actually, maybe my curiosity has its limits.

And thus, this curiosity journey draws to an end. Never stop asking questions.

Nikki Harris and Shihab Moral contributed to this report. Eli Franklin and Marc Rosenthal are members of the Bowdoin Orient.


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